Referendums: Vote Yes Yes to remove sexist notions and recognise all family types

Two referendums are taking place on Friday 8 March. 

39th Amendment (The Family)

The constitution only gives rights to families based on marriage. Families headed by a single parent or where people are not married have second-class status. That impacts important legal rights. This referendum widens the definition to include more families, based on “durable relationships”.

40th Amendment (Care)

This referendum would remove outdated, sexist language which implies that a woman’s role is to provide care and “duties” in the home. It will replace it with a gender neutral wording that references care in the family and that the state will “strive to” support care.

Socialist Party is calling for a Yes / Yes vote in both 

This is not because we enthusiastically support the minimal wording the government has chosen. As with Repeal, the government is not carrying through the full recommendations of the Citizens’ Assembly that wanted the state to recognise care work and for gender equality to be enshrined in the Constitution. Such radical changes could have mobilised thousands to campaign for Yes, in a real push for women’s equality.

While the proposed wordings fall far short, they are nonetheless better than the sexist stereotypes and narrow patriarchal family currently in the Constitution. 

It’s no surprise that the establishment didn’t want to embed these rights in the Constitution. The reality is that the economy and society under capitalism rely on gender inequality and the unpaid care work women do. Oxfam estimates that $11 trillion is saved globally each year from this unpaid work. Employers and the state benefit hugely from the gender pay gap.

Religious right and far right using the referendums

Far right groups and individuals are urging No and No. Misogyny, homophobia, transphobia are core for them, alongside racism. 

The religious right (like Iona) are still reeling after the grassroots movements for marriage equality and repeal. They would love to score a victory here and take society backwards.

These referendums take place against a backdrop of attacks on feminism, LGBTQ rights and proposed sex education in schools. Hyper masculinity and figures like Andrew Tate are promoted to young boys online and even the idea of the submissive ‘trad wife’.

These forces would celebrate a No vote and use it to bolster their support and justify stopping more social progress.

Lies are being peddled such as that women are being removed from the Constitution or will lose protection; ⁠that recognising ‘durable relationships’ undermines marriage. Racism is being invoked about refugees and family reunification. 

A woman’s place…

The idea that the current articles somehow protect women is ludicrous. The Irish establishment has stood over sexist laws and practices since the state’s foundation.

It was Eamon de Valera and Archbishop John Charles McQuaid who penned the Constitution, who forced women out of public life and into the home. Women who didn’t conform faced Magdalene Laundries and Mother and Baby homes. Women, trade unionists and academics objected to these clauses at the time.

Having gendered roles in the Constitution helped justify barring married women from working in the public service until 1973.

They’re also hypocritical because working-class women have always been forced by financial necessity to work outside the home. 

Yes to removed gendered care roles:

The state has put responsibility for care of children, the disabled and elderly onto the shoulders of women. Women do a ‘double shift’ in and outside the home. It has also outsourced to the private sector, making childcare, elder and health care unaffordable. 

Yes to recognise lone parents: 

A Yes is important for the majority of households that don’t conform to the patriarchal family. Poverty and stigma has been endemic in Ireland for lone parents who now make up one in four families. Cohabiting couples with children rose by 25%. The No side can barely conceal that they detest LGBTQ+ parents and don’t want them recognised.

Just voting to amend these won’t change the second-class status of women. We should vote Yes – but we have to come together and fight for real equality.

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